Apple Patents Indoor Navigation System Based On Existing Wi-Fi Access Points

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Apple has a new patent granted by the USPTO today (via AppleInsider), and it describes a for determining a user’s position when they’re indoors, using existing Wi-Fi infrastructure instead of requiring newer tech and hardware installations to support something like iBeacons. The system also incorporates GPS, and appears to describe tech similar to that Apple acquired when it bought WifiSLAM, a company that specialized in indoor positioning, back in March last year.

The system described by Apple in the patent uses a location database similar to the ones it uses to help supplement outdoor location services on the current iOS devices, but with a store of spots within buildings to draw from for more specific information. It could even work with gadgets that don’t have GPS built-in, by using the location information of devices that do to tell the system where other devices connected to the same Wi-Fi access point likely are.

It gets hyper-local by figuring out so-called “presence areas” around the access point, based on signal strength, architectural information, or triangulation with other access nodes within the same facility or space. In the end, it could provide cheap and easy ways to provide indoor maps, as well as offer hyper-local promotional tools to businesses.

Apple is likely looking for any way to improve its native iOS Maps offering, after the service debuted to mostly disappointed reviews by people comparing it to the Google offering it replaced. Indoor navigation at major venues and other key public spots would go a long way toward helping iOS Maps demonstrate significant improvement.

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